Yoga and psychology -1

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The more I get to know about yoga and its benefits , the more I am able to connect the practice of yoga to psychological well being. This is hitherto a nascent area. In the last couple of years I have seen many experts try to use yoga to help with psychological disorders especially anxiety and depression. I recently wrote a paper on the connection between the two disciplines. I will present it here in a series. This is the first instalment of the series. 
Yoga has been part of the Indian Ethos from the beginning of time. No one knows who started teaching yoga first. Yoga is advocated even by allopathic practitioners for a holistic treatment of diseases which is not surprising. People are rediscovering yoga and its benefits. In fact nowadays claims are being made about yoga being the universal cure. Other countries where Yoga was introduced in the sixties are trying to claim yoga for their own and commercialise it. A whole new industry has sprung up around the practice of yoga and the accessories needed to make this practice easier and luxurious. When the ancient saints practice yoga they did not use any props. They did yoga on snowclad mountain tops, forests and deserts. Why has yoga gained popularity in the recent times? While marketing has a large part to play, I feel it is primarily because people are experiencing the benefits of yoga. More and more people are seeking out yoga instructors or institutions that can give them the right experience of yogic powers.
One thing I have noticed over the years is that when people are young they usually discount yoga as being slow, boring and low impact. As one reaches the forties, one realises the rustiness of joints and the various little aches and pains that affect us every day. This is also the time when people peak in their careers and high levels of stress are experienced. Most people turn to yoga at this juncture. However in recent times, with all the publicity that yoga is now getting from famous practitioners like Shilpa Shetty or Rekha , people are taking to yoga in their twenties. It has to be borne in mind that yoga is not a fad and to truly experience the benefits of yoga , one must focus on a complete practice and keep striving to get better every day.
The term Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit term “yuj” which means joining. While the more ascetic interpretation of this is to join the atman with the paramatman, a more layman’s understanding would be harmonizing the body mind and spirit through a combination of Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation. The Physiological benefits of yoga are well known –
• Control of various ailment such as diabetes, high/low blood pressure, aches and pains – head, back etc.
• Overall flexibility
• Feeling of wellness
• Weight control
• Better sleeping patterns
These are just a few. The list is endless. In this paper I would like to explore the impact of yoga on the mental aspects of Health. While there is a lot of chatter going on about the increase of stress in our lives, people are increasingly realizing the benefits of yoga on maintaining mental stability. Sri Aurobindo emphasized that yoga is a methodical effort towards self-development of potentialities. He emphasized the all-round personality development of the physical, mental intellectual and emotional and spiritual levels. The question then is that in what way can yoga contribute to the mental wellbeing of people. Being a psychologist myself I decided to choose the topic of the connection between yoga and psychological wellbeing of ordinary people.
Since yoga is defined by many people as the mastery of the mind, is it not possible to make the mind control the matter thereby reducing the incidence of what psychologists call the psychosomatic disorders or physical illnesses caused by a mental imbalance.

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